For parents of minor children, determining custody and visitation is often the most difficult aspect of divorce.
Parents navigating the divorce process should understand Georgia’s laws regarding child custody and visitation.
1. Stepparents have rights under the Equitable Caregiver Act
Under Georgia’s Equitable Caregiver Act, a stepparent may seek custody or visitation if the stepparent can prove that he or she has assumed a parental role in the child’s life. The court considers several factors in determining whether a stepparent qualifies as an equitable caregiver, including:
- The bond between the child and stepparent
- The stepparent’s daily involvement in the child’s life
- The stepparent’s ability to meet the child’s needs
- Other caregivers involved in the child’s life
The court must determine whether designating the stepparent as an equitable caregiver is in the best interest of the child.
2. Visitation and child support are separate orders
The court treats child support and visitation as two distinct matters. Paying child support does not guarantee that the non-custodial parent will have visitation rights. Likewise, failure to pay child support does not give the custodial parent the right to withhold visitation.
3. Older children may be able to choose whom to live with
In Georgia, the court may allow a child age 14 or older to decide where he or she wants to live. However, the court must consider the best interest of the child. If the court deems the child’s preferred arrangement to be against the child’s best interest, the court can override the child’s wishes.
When parents divorce, the child’s welfare is of the utmost importance. If parents can not agree to a parenting arrangement on their own, the court will decide based on what is in the child’s best interest.